Kenny Robinson’s Fascinating NFL Draft Journey Took Him to Carolina

Kenny Robinson opened his college career at West Virginia, then played in the XFL. The 6-foot-2 defensive back completed one of the more intriguing NFL draft journeys in recent memories was selected by the Carolina Panthers on Saturday.

The Panthers used a fifth-round pick on Robinson, an All-Big 12 defender who brings range and professional experience to the NFL.

Of the 250-plus players drafted this weekend, here’s what makes Kenny Robinson’s story so fascinating.

Kenny Robinson impressed at West Virginia

A defensive back from Wilkinsburg, Penn., Robinson spent two seasons at West Virginia. The cornerback-turned-safety picked off four passes, registered four tackles for loss, and had two touchdowns in two seasons with the Mountaineers.

Kenny Robinson earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors after a four-interception sophomore season. Months before Robinson began what could have been an excellent junior year, however, West Virginia dismissed the defensive back for academic misconduct.

The school accused Robinson of academic fraud and, when he wanted to transfer elsewhere, West Virginia refused to release his transcripts.

Instead of taking the year off and training, Kenny Robinson took his talents to the XFL. Vince McMahon’s start-up league offered to pay for Robinson’s online schooling while they gave him a chance to develop as a future NFL player.

Robinson was one of the XFL’s breakout stars

Former West Virginia defensive back Kenny Robinson played in the XFL earlier this year. Robinson is the first player in NFL draft history drafted after playing in the XFL.
Former West Virginia defensive back Kenny Robinson played in the XFL earlier this year. Robinson is the first player in NFL draft history drafted after playing in the XFL. | Jeff Curry/Getty Images

While his former teammates were competing in Big 12 play last October, Kenny Robinson was drafted for the first time. The St. Louis Battlehawks selected Robinson in the fifth round of the defensive backs draft.

Kenny Robinson didn’t need long to adjust to professional football. He picked off a pass in Week 3 and, two weeks later, grabbed another interception and recorded a sack.

Robinson had 21 tackles and two interceptions in five games for the BattleHawks. St. Louis went 3-2 and had a +20-point differential when the coronavirus pandemic shut the season down.

Kenny Robinson would have been eligible for the NFL draft regardless of how the XFL’s season ended. His successful stint in the XFL helped his NFL draft case.

Kenny Robinson is a name to know

Kenny Robinson immediately makes the Panthers’ defense better. He had a brief, but impressive, college career and excelled in a professional football league.

Robinson impressed with how quickly he adapted from the college game to a more unforgiving XFL.

The Panthers may also benefit from when the XFL’s season occurred. Robinson played multiple games this calendar year and is still fresh compared to college players whose seasons ended in November or December,

Although Pro Football Focus noted the difficulty in studying Robinson using the XFL’s data, the site is high on Robinson’s NFL future.

PFF analysts Eric Eager and George Chahrouri called Robinson one of their favorite players in this year’s draft.

“With coverage very much a weak-link system, teams can never have enough players who can cover, and Robinson projects as a guy who can cover the deep part of the field well.

While his lack of experience in the box or in the slot is something of a concern, he will have a role at least in sub-packages early on, as more and more teams play with three or more safeties on the field at the same time.